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16th annual UT Martin Civil Rights Conference to address "Unfinished Business: The Continuing Struggle for Civil Rights" Feb. 14-20


Contact 1: Erin Chesnut


MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin’s 16th annual Civil Rights Conference, hosted Feb. 14-20, will focus on “Unfinished Business: the Continuing Struggle for Civil Rights in America.” Rev. William Barber II will give the keynote address at 7 p.m., Feb. 18.

Barber is currently the chairman of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the largest chapter in the southern United States and second-largest in the nation. He is also the leader of the “Moral Monday Movement,” which defends against attacks on voting rights and social programs affecting black and poor people. Barber received his Master of Divinity degree from Duke University.

Conference events begin Feb. 14 with a showing of the Oscar-winning film “Selma,” which focuses on the 1965 civil rights battle in Selma, Ala. The screening will be held at 6 and 9 p.m. in Watkins Auditorium.

Dr. Marcus Bright, a Martin native and executive director of Education for a Better America, will offer insights into modern-day educational issues at 1 p.m., Feb. 15. Award-winning actress and Memphis activist Florence Roach will perform a piece titled “Unfinished Business” at 7 p.m. that evening.

The UT Martin percussion ensemble will present their acclaimed “Roots of Rhythm” performance at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 16, and again at noon, Feb. 17, in the Harriet Fulton Theatre of the Fine Arts Building. Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for students and children.

The Hortense-Parrish Writing Center will host a workshop on black writers at 12:15 p.m., Feb. 17, in room 209 of the Andy Holt Humanities Building. The workshop will focus on “Blackness in Comics: Superheroes and Black History.” A presentation titled “To Be Black and Alive at UTM” will explore what it means to be a black student on UT Martin’s predominately white campus at 6:30 p.m. that evening.

Thursday, Feb. 18, is the conference’s busiest day featuring a variety of speakers. Dr. Errol Henderson, associate professor of political science at Penn State University, will present “The Historical Significance of the Civil Rights Movement” at 9:30 a.m. Sheila Bright, fine art photographer, will speak on “Black Lives Matter and the Historic Civil Rights Movement” at 11 a.m.

Lonnie King, a founder of the student movement in 1960s Atlanta, Ga., will address “The Atlanta Student Movement of the 1960s and Lessons for Today” at 1 p.m. Bob Zellner, who joined the civil rights movement despite family connections to the Klu Klux Klan, will follow with a lecture titled “White Southerners and the Civil Rights Movement” at 2:30 p.m.

The UT Martin Collegiate Gospel Choir will perform before Barber’s keynote address at 7 p.m. Barber’s appearance is co-sponsored by UT Martin Honors Program’s Academic Speaker Series.

All presentations will be given in Watkins Auditorium of the Boling University Center unless otherwise noted.

The Roots of Rhythm performance will also be presented at the Discovery Park of America in Union City at 11 a.m., Feb. 19, and at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Feb. 20, in cooperation with the conference. This performance is included with the price of park admission.

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

UT Martin is one of only two public universities in the country to host an annual Civil Rights Conference.

For more information, contact Dr. David Barber, associate professor of history and conference coordinator, at 731-881-7465 or by email at


PHOTO CAPTION – The UT Martin Collegiate Gospel Choir performs as part of the 2014 Civil Rights Conference at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The choir will perform this year before Rev. William Barber II’s keynote address at 7 p.m., Feb. 18, in Watkins Auditorium. The 16th annual conference is set for Feb. 14-20.

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